Category Archives: Reading

Preparing for AP Success Beginning at the Novice Level

Do you have AP language classes in your program?  When do you begin focusing on the linguistic and cultural competence skills that students will need to succeed at this level? A Pre-AP focus can be quite beneficial in the language learning process, fostering critical skills and mindsets early on. Whether students pursue a language at the AP level or not, these skills not only enhance and support academic success, but  they also cultivate confidence and competence.

Preparing for AP Success Beginning at the Novice Level (French, Spanish)

Let’s look at the benefits of integrating Pre-AP strategies and curriculum into language program curriculum and objectives. These provide students with a strong foundation for their language learning pursuit.  They will be well-equipped to succeed in an AP class, or, if they don’t follow that route, they will still have the skills needed to communicate effectively and with confidence.

Building Strong Language Foundations

To pave the path for success, emphasizing core language skills—Interpersonal Speaking Interpretive Listening and Reading, Presentational Speaking and Writing—is pivotal in lower-level classes. These skills are the foundation of language proficiency and serve as the building blocks for advanced language studies. Incorporating authentic resources, such as news articles, videos, and podcasts, enriches language learning experiences. Students greatly benefit from exposure to real-world materials, providing a glimpse into how language operates in authentic contexts.

Cultivating Critical Thinking

Even at lower proficiency levels, cultivating critical thinking skills is attainable. In lower-level classes, introduce basic analysis and synthesis abilities. For instance, encourage students to analyze short texts or compare different viewpoints on straightforward topics. Questioning techniques play a pivotal role in promoting critical thinking. Pose thought-provoking questions that urge students to delve deeper into a text’s meaning, nurturing thoughtful discussions and enhancing overall comprehension.

Integrating AP Themes in Lower-Level Classes

Delaying the exploration of AP themes until AP classes is not necessary.

Beauty and Aesthetics

  • At lower proficiency levels, you can introduce discussions on topics like art, music, and cultural expressions. Challenge students to describe a famous painting using simple vocabulary and then compare their interpretations.

Science and Technology

  • Basic science and technology-related vocabulary can be introduced . Have students read simplified news articles about technological advancements and discuss their implications in the target language.

Personal and Public Identities

  • Exploring personal interests and identities is relevant at any proficiency level. In a straightforward “About Me” presentation activity, students can introduce themselves and share their hobbies.

Families and Communities

  • Family structures and communities are universal topics that can be discussed even with basic language skills. Encourage students to create posters representing a community event or a family gathering.

Global Challenges

  • Basic global challenges, like environmental issues, can be introduced in lower-level classes. For instance, students can engage in dialogues discussing simple ways to contribute to solving these challenges.

Contemporary Life

  • Everyday life topics are relatable for all learners. Consider a role-play activity where students simulate common situations like ordering food at a restaurant using basic conversational phrases.

Differentiation and Inclusion

Acknowledge the diverse learning needs in your classes. Implement strategies that cater to various learning styles and skill levels. Tiered assignments serve as an excellent approach to adapting tasks to different proficiency levels, challenging advanced learners while providing extra support for those who require it.

Your Turn…

The advantages of focusing on these “AP skills” extends beyond advanced content; it lays a solid foundation for language learners. By integrating these strategies and curriculum into lower-level classes, educators equip students with the tools and mindset required for success in advanced language courses. Try out these suggestions and tailor them to your unique classroom contexts as you empower students to grow in proficiency and reach higher levels of cultural competence.

98: From a Short Text to a Full Lesson with Sarah Barrientos Svatos

How do you find a text, or any kind of reading that you use with your students?  Does it have to be a long piece of text to make sure that students really get something out of it or that you can use as a way for students to engage with the language? Today, Sarah Barrientos Svatos, a Spanish teacher in Spain, joins me to discuss how we can take a short text and turn it into a full lesson that touches on all of the communication modes. She has lots of tips to share so that you can get started right away.

Topics in this Episode:

  • what we mean by a “short text”
  • the benefits of using a short text
  • are short texts only effective at novice level or also effective at higher proficiency levels?
  • how to set students up for success by preparing them to engage with the text (pre-reading activities)
  • how to support students while they engage with the text (during-reading activities)
  • how to check for understanding of the text and set students up to produce output  (post-reading activities)
  • Download Sarah’s Paella Activity

Connect with Sarah Barrientos Svatos:

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Teachers want to hear from you and what you are proud of in your classroom.
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86: Lots of Activities for Any Reading with Ashley Mikkelsen

Do you use reading as a source of comprehensible input in your language classroom? In this episode, we dive into the topic of reading with Ashley Mikkelsen, a Spanish teacher in North Dakota, who shares suggestions and ideas for engaging reading activities that you can do right away in your classroom. Ashley has a true passion for making reading fun and interactive for students. So, grab your notebook and pen, and get ready to add lots of pre, during, and post reading activities to your next lesson.

Topics in this Episode:

  • Ashley’s journey with literacy
  • the benefits of reading in the language acquisition process
  • simply reading or truly engaging with a text
  • activities for any reading:
    • pre-reading
    • during reading
    • after reading and leveraging the content

Connect with Ashley Mikkelsen:

Work with Joshua either in person or remotely.

Follow wherever you listen to podcasts.

Teachers want to hear from you and what you are proud of in your classroom.
Join me on the podcast.
We record conversations remotely, so you can be anywhere.

Make Logic Puzzles in Any Language

I’ve been workshopping how to make logic puzzles so that I can engage students in various vocabulary topics and language structures.  This is yet another way to provide students with opportunities to see and use language in context.  These logic puzzles also require a bit of critical thinking skills as they follow the logic and figure out the answers.

Make Logic Puzzles in Any Language or Topic (French, Spanish)

I spent some time coming up with the “equations” and templates so that I can just add in the topic vocabulary and write the clue sentences.  I decided to create 4 versions that increase in challenge level.

You can download your own templates and get to work creating your own logic puzzles for your students. The link below will make a copy of the Google Slide™ temples in your Google Drive™.  Just follow the equations for the clues and you will soon have logic puzzles using the specific content that pertains to your students.

Make Logic Puzzles in Any Language or Topic (French, Spanish)

How does it work?

  • There are 4 versions of the logic puzzles for increased challenge. The directions are in English, but can be easily changed to any language.
  • Begin by filling in the boxes in the top row and the column on the left. This can be names of people, pictures, anything.

Make Logic Puzzles in Any Language or Topic (French, Spanish)

  • Use the data “equations” to write sentences that lead students to follow the logic and figure out the answers. “=“ means a positive statement and “≠” means a negative statement.
    • 1. C ≠ 2
    • 2. B ≠ 4
    • 3. A = 2
    • 4. D ≠ 3
    • 5. C = 1
  • Using the example above:
    • 1. C ≠ 2 :  Mateo does not have a tablet.
    • 2. B ≠ 4 : Lucía doesn’t have a computer.
    • 3. A = 2 : Laura has a tablet.
    • 4. D ≠ 3 : Julia doesn’t have a pencil.
    • 5. C = 1 : Mateo has a notebook.
  • The checkmarks are there to make sure you are following the equations. When finished, be sure to delete the checkmarks and the letters/numbers above and to the left of the grid.

Make Logic Puzzles in Any Language or Topic (French, Spanish)

  • The last thing to do is to add question below where the students will find the answers in the grid.

Have fun with these and let us all know what you come up with.

Make Logic Puzzles in Any Language or Topic (French, Spanish)

15: Stories as Windows and Mirrors with Jennifer Degenhardt

In this episode we talk about stories in the language classroom.  Stories provide opportunities to see and interpret words and structures in context.  There are numerous opportunities to engage with the text in all of the communication modes.  Additionally, students learn about different cultures and can also see themselves reflected in the story.  This form of representation is incredibly valuable for students on their language learning journey.

I am joined by Jennifer Degenhardt, a language teacher and author of CI (Comprehensible Input) novels for novice and intermediate students.

Jennifer offers her thoughts and insights on…

  • the value in representation
  • how she finds her characters and their stories
  • the research that goes into a book
  • how she writes an “authentic” personal experience
  • what she hears from students and teachers who read her books

Connect with Jennifer Degenhardt:

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11: Free Voluntary Reading (FVR) with Jade Greene

In this episode we talk about Free Voluntary Reading (FVR) in the in language classroom.

I am joined by Jade Greene, a high school teacher in North Carolina, who helps us understand the benefits of reading in the target language and how to set up FVR in our language classrooms.

Jade speaks about…

  • the primary benefits of promoting a culture of reading in the language classroom
  • choosing books for your classroom library
  • students’ responses to the reading options
  • how FVR works
  • her journey as a CI (Comprehensible Input) author

Connect with Jade Greene:

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French & Spanish Digital Verb Form Activities

I have done a paper version of this activity, but now I do them digitally using Google Slides™.  Students are actively engaged in their language learning with these interactive digital squares verb form activities.

To complete the puzzles, students begin with a subject/infinitive from the number column and locate the correct form in the letter column.  They then find the corresponding square in the grid, such as 1E, 5G or 7B, and drag a red dot to it.

Each completed slide creates an obvious pattern that can be quickly graded by the teacher. There is an answer slide included with the solutions for each slide.

This video shows how to do the activities.

These digital squares activities can be used in class or remotely for:

  • Quick review
  • Activity for students who finish other activities early
  • Do Now (individual puzzles)
  • Homework (multiple puzzles)
  • Classwork (individual, group, station)
  • Substitute lesson plans

The activities are ready to go right away. All you have to do is share with your students.

Authentic Resources in the World Language Classroom

ACTFL provides us with Core Practices that guide teachers toward teaching language proficiency rather than simply teaching about the target language.  It comes down to providing students with opportunities to do something with the language and not just demonstrate what they know about the language.

Authentic Resources in the World Language Classroom; French, Spanish

When we take on the task of providing opportunities for students to engage with culture ACTFL recommends using authentic cultural resources.

Authentic Resources in the World Language Classroom; French, Spanish

What is an authentic cultural resource? 

  • Eileen W. Glisan and Richard Donato explain that “Authentic texts […] are created for various social and cultural purposes by and for users of the target language.”  The word authentic implies that “the text has not been simplified or edited for the purpose of language instruction.”

How do I choose authentic cultural resources? 

Leslie Grahn suggests that these resources should be:

  • Authentic (truly for by and or native speakers)
  • Appealing (compelling to students)
  • Accessible (according to the students’ proficiency level)
  • Aligned (integrated into goals and backward planning)

What are some possibilities for authentic cultural resources? 

  • Video clips
  • Poems
  • Audio clips
  • Songs
  • Articles
  • Commercials
  • Infographics
  • Books
  • Podcasts
  • Advertisements
  • Images
  • Memes
  • Quotes
  • Movies
  • Stories
  • Conversations

One of the best pieces of advice that I have heard regarding using authentic cultural resources is from Leslie Grahn:

“Adapt the task, not the text.”

French and Spanish Vocabulary Magic Squares (Digital, Google Slides™)

When French and Spanish teachers tell me what they want in resources there are a few common themes:

  • Digital files that I can easily share with students
  • Little to no prep
  • Self-grading so that students can track their progress
  • Easy to grade
  • Provides students with effective practice with vocabulary themes without translation.

Digital magic squares activities using Google Slides™ touch on all of these points. 

The right side of each screen has 16 pictures and the grid has the words that correspond to each picture. Students type the number of the picture below the word.

When all numbers are filled in students can verify their answers. The total of the numbers in each row, column, and diagonal is 34.

There are 4 puzzles in this activity, an answer slide and a vocabulary reference page.

Absolutely no prep needed. Just share with students. Useful for distance, hybrid, blended or in school learning and teaching.

Digital files, Little to no prep, Self-grading, Easy to grade, Effective practice

Get you magic squares activities now and share immediately with students.

French Digital Magic Squares Topics:

Spanish Digital Magic Squares Topics:

Are We Speaking Our Students’ Language?

How many times have we done our best to come up with scenarios and role plays that may or may not be applicable to the everyday lives of our students?  Where are they reading, writing, speaking and communicating?  Social media is certainly one place.  I put together a template for Instagram™ photos and stories and students write their own descriptions of photos and comment on their classmates’ posts.  I even added on opportunities to “post” Instagram™ Story videos.

I can’t actually use social media platforms with my students, so I created Google Slides™ where they insert photos and videos with descriptions into a template.

This link will make a copy in your Google Drive™ of the template that I created. 

This digital activity that works well if teaching in school or remotely.